The Crown's Jonathan Pryce on Philip's friendship with Penny Romsey

The Crown’s Jonathan Pryce makes extraordinary claim that the Palace ‘manipulated’ the British press into covering up Prince Philip’s ‘friendship’ with Penny Knatchbull

  • The actor spoke on Philip’s relationship with Penny – his carriage driving partner
  • READ MORE: Penny Romsey, Prince Philip’s confidante Countess Mountbatten

Actor Jonathan Pryce, who plays Prince Philip in The Crown, has spoken for the first time of his misgivings over the portrayal of the late royal’s friendship with Penny Romsey.

Penny, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, was Philip’s carriage driving partner and featured in series five of the Netflix show played by British actress Natascha McElhone.

The actor said he had no previous knowledge of Philip’s friendship with Penny Bradbourne – maiden name Knatchbull – which Mr Pryce said made him think the ‘British press were presumably manipulated into suppressing these stories’. 

He said: ‘The main thing I learned about him that I didn’t know came from my first meeting with Peter Morgan, when he told me the direction in which he wanted to take Philip’s character and that he wanted to expose and talk about this relationship he had with Penny Romsey.

‘I knew nothing about this relationship. And I left Peter’s house thinking, “Do I want to be the man who tells the world that Phillip has this friendship?”.

The Duke of Edinburgh was said to have provided support for the countess after her five-year-old daughter died of kidney cancer. Here the pair are pictured walking together with her husband Lord Brabourne in the background in 2009

Penny, also known as Countess Mountbatten of Burma, was Philip’s carriage driving partner and featured in series five of the Netflix show (pictured) played by British actress Natascha McElhone

Jonathan Pryce attends the Los Angeles Premiere of Netflix’s “The Crown” Season 6 Part 1 at Regency Village Theatre on November 12

Mr Pryce added: ‘And I was very nervous about it and then I went to France and I thought I’ll Google it – and I put the two names into Google and European Google was full – page after page after page – of stories about Philip and Penny and that gave me a lot of confidence to approach that storyline. 

‘But it also told me about how the British press were presumably manipulated into suppressing these stories. And that was a very interesting thing to discover how the power that the royal family might have, and Philip especially.’

The Crown, which is based on the royal family but also weaves in fictional storylines, sparked fury during the release of season five as it suggested that a ‘lonely’ Philip turned to Penny for ‘intellectual companionship’.

But in real life too, the closeness between the Duke of Edinburgh resulted in rumours of an affair over their decades-long friendship, however the pair always strenuously denied the accusation.

And the rumours of a romance between the two were somewhat quietened after Penny also developed a close relationship with the late Queen Elizabeth II.

READ MORE: Who is Penny Knatchbull? A look at Prince Philip’s confidante Countess Mountbatten amid outrage over her portrayal as a ‘secret lover’ in The Crown 

The second episode in the series showed the pair developing a close friendship after the death of Penny’s daughter Leonora from kidney cancer. 

In the episode, Philip takes it upon himself to offer condolences to the family after Leonora’s death – and finds Penny at home alone. 

The two discuss grief with Philip presenting her with a posy of flowers. The pair then discuss marriage and Philip hints he and the Queen have ‘grown in separate directions.’ 

Philip encourages Penny to take up a hobby to distract her from the grief, before she reveals she has an old carriage in the garage of her home. Penny shows Philip a carriage in the garage – ‘Norton wouldn’t to sell it, we’ve been told it’s beyond repair.’

Philip makes it his pet project to renovate the carriage back to it’s former glory, before presenting it to Penny and inviting her along for a ride.

Penelope (Penny) Romsey, also known as Countess Mountbatten of Burma, who befriended Prince Philip at a polo match in 1975 when she was 20, became one of his closest confidantes despite being 32 years his junior and was pictured on walks with the Duke over the years  

Prince Philip and Penny Knatchbull had a friendship lasting decades after they bonded over a love of carriage riding. Here they are pictured at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2009

The pair sit in his car at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2009. The new season of The Crown is set to show Philip pursuing an affair with the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, it has been reported

The two laugh and joke with one another on an intimate ride through the countryside, with their hands touching on multiple occasions.

Upon their return to Penny’s home, they discuss setting up a charitable foundation in memory of Leonora, which Philip has drawn up plans for.

At the end of the episode, The Queen and Prince Philip discuss the idea of having ‘secrets’ from one another. 

But a source who knows the family slammed The Crown’s portrayal of Penny as ‘deliberately cruel’ and ‘unnecessarily unsympathetic’.

An acquaintance of the family – who had not yet seen the series – told The Telegraph last year: ‘It is one thing for a script to be drivel, another to be so deliberately cruel. 

‘I think maybe they have shot themselves in the foot rather with this but for the majority, it will simply pass them by.’

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